Shadow Maze – Jonathan Wylie

Shadow_Maze_-_Jonathan_Wylie_cover

Two young men are all that remains of a village massacred by the mysterious Knifemen. They dedicate their lives to vengeance, with the help of some new-found friends.

In the mid-80s, I bought a lot of books by Jonathan Wylie. (He later changed his name to Mark & Julia Smith. No accounting for tastes.) Most of them were epic fantasy series, with the occasional alternate historical mixed in. But he/they also wrote a few standalone books. This is one of those, and it’s pretty good.

SFF has moved on since the 80s, in a good way, with writers like Daniel Abraham entering the field. This story doesn’t match the current level of sophistication, but don’t hold that against it. It’s still a nice read.

The story is largely a by-the-numbers adventure/puzzle quest, but all the parts are pretty well done. There are some discontinuities and just-accept-its in the characterization, but once established, the characters work well. They’re generally interesting and likeable, and for all the “I vow revenge” nature of the story, it’s remarkably light-hearted. You won’t find any great surprises, but it’s a well-put together narrative that maintains your interest all the way through. The ending tilts heavily toward “happy ever after” in a not very credible way, but it’s done well enough that it’s not a major flaw.

All in all, a good, solid adventure fantasy. It didn’t win literary awards, but it’s approachable, fun, and a quick, pleasant read.

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